Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Sponsors pay basics for 3400 Kiwi kids struggling with rising rents

Private sponsors will soon be paying for the basics for 3400 Kiwi kids whose parents are often struggling with rising rents.

More than 2800 needy children are already being sponsored by the charity Variety's Kiwi Kids scheme, launched in 2013, and a further 600 are on its waiting list - 350 of them in Auckland.

The charity's chief executive, Lorraine Taylor, says many of the sponsored families are paying more than half their income on rent.

"We know from speaking with hundreds of low-income families in Auckland that housing costs are a huge issue, even when parents are working, and that financial stress affects children too," she said.

The latest household economic survey found that 27 per cent of Auckland renters, but only 21 per cent of renters in the rest of the country, pay more than 40 per cent of their income in rent.

Auckland's lower-quartile rents have risen 21.2 per cent in the past five years, from $312 to $378 a week, while Aucklanders' average wages rose only 14.1 per cent and the income of an unemployed couple with two children on the maximum Auckland accommodation supplement went up only 6.7 per cent.

One Iraqi-born family on Variety's waiting list is paying $575 a week to rent a four-bedroom house on the North Shore near the wife's sister and her family, who came here 20 years ago, and their ageing parents who need constant help.

Ziyad, 51, who ran a bookshop in Baghdad, and his wife Yusra, a trained accountant, arrived as refugees last March and are living on welfare benefits while they attend English classes.

Their two daughters aged 23 and 18 are not working yet because they are still learning English.

They have applied for sponsorship for their two sons Badri, 13, and Abdullah, 11, to pay for basics such as clothes, school stationery and soccer fees until the adults can speak English well enough to get jobs - hopefully in one more year.

"It's expensive, life here, so we have to work," Ziyad said.

"We don't have enough for food. Sometimes we wait until the next benefit," said Yusra.

The family has fled from wars in two countries - first from Iraq in 2006 to a small town in Syria, which was then a safe country, and then from Syria after civil war broke out in 2011.

They were accepted for resettlement in New Zealand in 2014 but had to wait because Yusra's father, 89, had a fall and was unable to travel until last March.

The boys' faces and other identifying details cannot be published because Kiwi Kids sponsors can't meet the children they support - a rule designed to protect the children and to shield sponsors from requests for more help.

Sponsors pay at least $45 a month for each child. Schools and social agencies can nominate needy children. Families do not receive cash but Variety uses the sponsors' money to pay providers such as schools and shops for agreed items for the children.

• On the web: http://www.variety.org.nz/how-we-help/kiwi-kid-sponsorship/


Auckland incomes vs costs

Benefit and family tax credits for two parents and two children on maximum Auckland accommodation supplement
Dec 2011: $709.89 pw
Dec 2016: $757.37 pw
+ 6.7%
Source: MSD

Employees' average weekly earnings
Dec 2011: $917.21 pw
Dec 2016: $1046.80 pw
+ 14.1%
Source: Statistics NZ

Lower-quartile rent
Jan 2012: $312 pw
Jan 2017: $378 pw
+ 21.2%
Source: MBIE

- NZ Herald

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